Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Queenstown As New Zealand's Gateway To The Bitcoin World

Renowned for its breathtaking vistas of Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps, as well as its attraction as a luxury tourist destination, Queenstown could become a premier hub for Bitcoin innovation in New Zealand.

Alongside exotic locales like El Zonte in El Salvador and the lakeside city of Lugano in Switzerland, Queenstown has been establishing its own local Bitcoin economy of innovators, businesses, and initiatives. From burgeoning startup ventures to Bitcoin community events and the building of Bitcoin infrastructure, Queenstown could become a hub for this new monetary technology in New Zealand.

Emergence of Bitcoin Cities globally

Bitcoin Beach (El Zonte) in El Salvador, and Switzerland’s Lugano’s Plan B initiatives have proven the power of local Bitcoin innovation hubs globally. By focussing on bringing together Bitcoin builders as well as enabling local businesses to accept Bitcoin for payment, both locations have become go-to destinations for people wanting to work on Bitcoin technology.

In the case of El Salvador in particular, Bitcoin has been part of a massive positive transformation story for the Latin-American country which began to accept Bitcoin as legal tender in 2021. In that time the country, which has a population size similar to New Zealand, has gone from being tarnished by gang violence and economic uncertainty to becoming a safe and up-and-coming spot for Bitcoin businesses, investors, and innovators to establish themselves and to call home.

Seamless Retail Payments with Bitcoin

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

While Bitcoin operates as a decentralised monetary network on a global scale, its impact is perhaps most obvious when experienced on a local level: Visitors and residents of Queenstown alike can now seamlessly transact using Bitcoin at establishments such as The World Bar or Yonder Cafe on Church Street, book a relaxing getaway at Aro Hā Wellness Retreat, purchase locally-produced honey from Bee the Change, or even buy fine artwork from Aurum Gallery, all within Queenstown.

In February 2024 the Bitkiwi Queenstown event brought Bitcoiners together from all over New Zealand where they quickly overflowed to take over the World Bar on the city’s waterfront. Conversations were had about the impact of this new monetary technology as well as the potential business collaborations and opportunities Bitcoin could spark in New Zealand, all the while buying drinks directly with Bitcoin over the counter.

Bitkiwi Meetup Event in Queenstown, February 2024 (Supplied).

Unlike legacy and centralised point of sale solutions such as Visa PayWave or EFTPOS, Bitcoin transactions run over an open-source architecture and so can have much lower or even no customer surcharges or contactless payment fees.

Additionally Bitcoin has 24/7 uptime, which cannot be said for EFTPOS which when it goes down can leave customers and businesses in the dark. Using the Bitcoin network for payments does not require a specialised card reading machine or lease contract for point of sale services as customers simply make purchases directly with their phones.

At the forefront of this burgeoning movement is Queenstown-based Bitcoin startup, Lightning Pay. The company has recently launched a closed beta for their Bitcoin / NZD exchange, but plans on scaling it up to offer options for Kiwi merchants to accept payments in Bitcoin with low fees, zero chargeback risks, and instant settlement back into NZD if required.

Lightning Pay Director Rob Clarkson is a longtime Bitcoin developer and has been involved with several Bitcoin open-source projects.

“There are a lot of opportunities for Bitcoin in Queenstown, and as a premier tourist destination it could bring in a lot of value to New Zealand. A lot of merchants are stuck with stomaching contactless card fees or otherwise passing this onto their customers. Bitcoin fixes this.”

However, Queenstown's Bitcoin story extends beyond just innovation in retail transactions. Much like other places that were quick to embrace technology such as fibre-optic internet, Queenstown has the potential to emerge as an innovation hub more broadly in other aspects of Bitcoin, including Bitcoin Mining.

An Opportunity for Sustainable Bitcoin Mining

The Southern Lakes district, which encompasses much of Otago and Southland, boasts significant renewable energy resources, being home to the majority of New Zealand’s 5,680 MW of installed hydro power capacity.

The Clyde Dam in Central Otago is New Zealand’s third largest hydroelectric dam. Source: EECA

Bitcoin mining could bring significant revenue to the region. One kiwi company, Grid Share operates a renewable and sustainable Bitcoin mining facility at the Lake Monowai Power Station. Due to the unique way Bitcoin mining works, the facility is able to switch off and on quickly, a function known as “Demand Response”, using Grid Share’s proprietary technology. Demand Response is able to release power back into the grid during peak demand periods, or maintain frequency and voltage in the network. It is the perfect plug-in to provide the energy system flexibility required to support renewable energy growth in New Zealand.

Grid Share’s 100% Renewable Bitcoin operation at the Lake Monowai Power Station.

Kiwi Bitcoin mining could become an export industry in its own right, selling sustainability mined Bitcoin on the global markets alongside New Zealand’s traditional image of tourism and agriculture.

Growing Queenstown into New Zealand’s Bitcoin Hub

The upcoming launch of the Technology Queenstown (TQ) economic development agency sets out to diversify the region's economy and foster technological advancement and innovation.

Technology Queenstown is a not-for-profit that brings together international professional services firm Accenture, Queenstown Lakes District Council, the University of Otago, tech investment bank North Ridge Partners and tertiary training institute Queenstown Resort College. More corporate members are expected to join in short order.

TQ recently released a detailed economic analysis commissioned by Accenture that reveals how creating a world-class niche tech ecosystem could generate around $1billion in annual GDP, or 10-20% of the local economy by 2043.

Their shared vision is to drive diversification of the local economy with a strategic plan that will develop its technology industry. Could this include Bitcoin innovation?

Technology Queenstown Chair Roger Sharp said “When TQ is up and running we will be interested in resourcing a study to determine what Bitcoin could mean for Queenstown.”

The outlook is bright for Queenstown which could stand to become one of New Zealand's real-world portals to the global Bitcoin network, creating a thriving ecosystem for Bitcoin's continued growth and integration into the fabric of New Zealand’s economy.

Additional Information:

Accept Bitcoin NZ provides information about Bitcoin-accepting Businesses in New Zealand

Bitcoin Beach (El Zonte) is a grass-roots project that has become a tourist destination for people globally.

Lugano’s Plan is a joint initiative between the City of Lugano and Tether to accelerate the use of and leverage bitcoin technology as the foundation to transform the city’s financial infrastructure.

Technology Queenstown is a technology development agency planning to drive economic diversification in the Queenstown Lakes District through expanding its tech sector.

The Transformation of Value

is New Zealand's largest Bitcoin podcast. Hosted by Cody Ellingham, the show explores the broad impacts of Bitcoin on the world.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.